Bringing a new student and sustainability perspective to the QS Global Rankings Advisory Board

A model wind turbine in a meeting room, evidencing sustainability.

We are thrilled to welcome two new members to the QS Global Rankings Advisory Board – an independent panel who advise QS on the development and impact of our rankings portfolio. University of Cambridge student Stella Wernicke and Dr Sebastian Kahlert, Sustainability Manager at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, join a diverse membership of 39 experts in their respective professional and academic fields, from over 20 countries.

Dr Ludovic Highman, Secretary of the QS Global Rankings Advisory Board, said: “We are extremely pleased to welcome Stella and Sebastian to the Advisory Board.

“QS strives to enable the student perspective to be at the centre of all our rankings, and it is only natural and a logical result of this focus that the student voice be included within our Advisory Board.

“Further enhancing our knowledge base and expertise in sustainability issues ensures we remain at the forefront of a topic which is of the utmost importance to students and universities across the globe.”

Our first student representative on the QS Global Rankings Advisory Board

An image of Stella Wernicke

Stella Wernicke is our first student representative on the Board. She recently enrolled on an MPhil in Biological Science (Psychology) having graduated from her undergraduate studies at Heidelberg University in Germany.

“I think it’s really important that QS has added a student perspective to the Advisory Board. Any organisation concerned with education should incorporate an up-to-date student perspective,” she said.

“Teaching is such a key element of what universities offer and having a current viewpoint on students’ experiences is essential.”

“Universities can no longer afford to prioritise research at the expense of teaching. There is such a huge variety and range in education choices nowadays that what students say needs to be at the forefront.”

Stella has held numerous student representative roles during her undergraduate studies and is passionate about the importance of understanding that there isn’t a single student view – but many to consider.

She added: “I’ve noticed a growing appreciation for student perspectives in university decision-making. As a student representative, I’m committed to voicing the diverse views of students from different nationalities, educational backgrounds, study levels and disciplines.”

Representing the importance and value of sustainability

40% of prospective international students are now actively researching the environmental sustainability of an institution when they’re making decisions about which universities and courses to apply to, according to the QS International Student Survey 2023.

“I’m impressed but not surprised by this number because environmental issues demand urgent attention and I am glad to see them taking centre stage,” said Stella.

“I think younger generations are acutely aware of these problems because they’ve already grown up with them. It’s not just about their children’s future; it’s about the world they are living in right now.” Earlier this year, QS became the first of the major rankings organisations to incorporate sustainability as a core metric in their flagship rankings.

An image of Sebastian 

Our second new Rankings Advisory Board member is sustainability expert Dr Sebastian Kahlert. He has a master’s degree in management and technology with a minor in renewable energies and sustainable transport from the Technical University of Munich and a Doctor of Science on the circular economy of plastic materials from ETH Zurich.

He has built considerable professional experience in various fields of sustainability, serving both public and private sector institutions in their decarbonisation pathway – from strategy development to process optimisation.

His research has been published in journals such as the Journal of Cleaner Production and Resources, Conservation and Recycling.

He said: “It is great but also very important that sustainability is included in the QS rankings – and I am very happy to contribute with my experience by joining the Advisory Board.

“I’m very much looking forward to the discussions with fellow board members and the opportunity to drive sustainability in higher education forward. In my opinion, universities have to be role models in sustainability – given they have all the knowledge of what is required through their research and an opportunity for piloting new approaches.”

We asked Sebastian whether he felt there was currently enough urgency around sustainability progress in the higher education sector.

“The short answer would have to be no, unfortunately,” he said. “There is considerable progress being made but there is a need for a stronger commitment to make sustainability a core value and priority for universities.

“There are many universities who produce reports and communications on their sustainability progress but what I think is important is that sustainability is integrated into all processes and the annual reporting – and not treated like a separate entity.”

The QS Global Rankings Advisory Board is chaired by Dr Alison Lloyd, Associate Provost (Institutional Data and Research) at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).

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